How COVID-19 lockdown led to deaths of pregnant women in Nigeria – Report

A United Kingdom-based news organisation, OpenDemocracy, said in a report that pregnant women in Nigeria and several other African countries died or had difficult childbirths due to transport restrictions set in place by federal and state governments to contain COVID-19.

The organisation said in some cases hospitals refused to attend to mothers and would-be mothers.

“In Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda, women died after failing to access medical care due to transport restrictions or because health workers refused to treat them.

“Transport restrictions also prevented women from reaching medical care in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe,” the report said.

According to the study, which covered about 100 cases across 45 countries, women had their vagina cut open to hasten delivery without any medical urgency requiring the process.

The report also knocked hospitals for separating mothers and new-borns without any medical proof that the baby could be infected with COVID-19 from contact with its mother.

It said some of the mistreatment pregnant women endured due to COVID-19 enforced restrictions and its interpretation by health workers included, “Giving birth without support as companions were banned from hospitals  – in some cases, even after other lockdown restrictions had  been lifted; forcible separation from their new-borns and being prevented from breastfeeding – despite no conclusive evidence to date that the virus can be transmitted in this way; more medical procedures performed including C-sections, induced births and episiotomies (cutting a woman’s vagina) to speed up women’s labour – in many cases where patients believed they were not medically justified and did not want them; pain medication withheld because hospital resources, including anaesthesiologists, were diverted to the COVID-19 response.”

OpenDemocracy noted that these actions against pregnant women breached World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and some national laws.

It said health experts predict that the fight against COVID-19 would unwittingly set developing countries back in their quest to reduce maternal and child mortality.

Reacting to the findings by the news platform, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said, “States need to bring their practices in line with the WHO guidance in this area without delay. Welcoming a child into the world should be a time of joy, rather than stress, trauma and potential human rights violations.”

The findings by OpenDemocracy echoes several reports made by SaharaReporters.

The news publication had in May reported that some hospitals in Ondo State refused to treat pregnant women because they lacked Personal Protective Equipment.

In Lagos, a general hospital barred pregnant women from receiving antenatal care because they had run out of drugs.

Several health workers in Nigeria were exposed to the virus, with some of them dying from the ailment.

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